If we had no past history

When we're burdened by emotional baggage, it's not surprising that many wish they had no past history. We're are so many immediate advantages to being clear of a personal past:
  • We could be as innocent and open minded as children: full of wonder, fascination and curiosity
  • We could face new challenges without any panic attacks, apprehensions or fears of repeating particular episodes in our lives
  • We could express ourselves freely without hang-ups, hesitation or eruptions of unwanted inhibitions
  • We could let go of whatever happens to us without clinging to it with a new batch of resentment, guilt or plots of revenge

With so much in favor of having no history, it's initially surprising that there are not psychiatric or street drugs that induce a functional form of amnesia. It's equally amazing that our brains don't drop recollections as a strategy to access more immediate pleasure. Yet, upon deeper reflection, there as many disadvantages to having no past history:
  • We could not build up competence and confidence in our established expertise
  • We could not know how to stay out of trouble or beware of danger without getting into it first
  • We could not quickly read a situation, recognize misleading information or suspect a ruse
  • We could not recognize patterns in a problematic context or formulate a responsive solution

This combination of advantages and disadvantages suggests another way to frame the challenge of resolving emotional baggage. We each have a particular relationship with our past history. This is a different thing from the history itself. How we relate to it determines whether we are burdened or liberated by it. How we see it delivers an experience of stagnation or growth. Whether or not we value it determines if we get value from it or not. We get back what we give out to our personal past history.


  1. Kia ora Tom!

    There's no doubt that we each learn from our experiences, whether in life, classroom, lecture, online, reading a tweet, etc. I see our past history as opportunities we each had to learn from.

    Some of these things learnt are painful and remembered as things we'd rather forget. Others are forgotten, but nevertheless remain in our learning, in much the same way as in the cognitive apprentice theory explains: that experts in a skill often forget about hidden processes involved in learning complex skills. The result of these latter can be baggage that's difficult to identify.

    Once identified, the learning from acquired baggage can be unlearned, if only to some extent, and though the baggage is not necessarily forgotten it can be shrugged off. It is like a bad habit - once learned, it is perpetuated until a conscious effort is made to change it.

    Teachers of learner musicians know about baggage too well, whether it's an attitude or a technique that is hampering the learner. For this reason maestros prefer to select their students at the earliest possible age, when the students show undoubted promise but have not yet acquired sufficient baggage to hamper further development significantly.

    But emotional baggage is often like a grieving, and if that form of grieving is not permitted to run its course it remains as baggage. It is most difficult to deal with if it cannot be recognised and identified.

    Psychologists are aware of the hampering nature of baggage and devise programs that permit the off-loading of baggage at appropriate junctures in a treatment.

    Catchya later

  2. Thanks for furthering these thoughts Ken!

    I wonder if we "forget what we want to remember and remember what we want to forget" when we're barraged by messages of "stop it", "fix it", "don't feel that", "don't think that" and "forget about it". Those messages would also give us problems with the grieving, as it would be framed as too much feeling, irrationality and introspection. If that's true, the reverse might also be valid. Perhaps we "remember what we want and forget what we want" when we're blessed with messages of "refine it", "choose your response", "explore it further", "wonder about it some more", "recognize the pattern in it" and "recall how it felt". Grieving would naturally occur amidst that set of nurturing expectations and sincere permission to feel our feelings.

    Happy trails!